Sparring continues over plan to privatize Pa. liquor sales

    Opponents of liquor store privatization in Pennsylvania say the plan being debated now would replace the state’s monopoly on wholesale wine and liquor with a private monopoly.

    But the bill’s backers say it’s not so simple.

    The current proposal to privatize liquor sales would let private in-state companies become the wholesalers. Certain wholesalers would have total control over certain brands of liquor or wine–such as Bacardi or Grey Goose–but they wouldn’t control more than half of the brands sold in the state.

    Those opposed to privatization say the wholesale licenses will go to a few deep-pocketed entities and give them the power to gouge customers.

    Jonathan Newman, former chairman of the state Liquor Control Board, says that won’t create a monopoly, as long as the plan doesn’t lead to a situation in other states, where no regulations are in place.

    “Once you control a brand, you control that brand for life. And that wholesaler will always control that brand, no matter how they service it,” he said. “So, to the extent that that’s going to come out in regulation, the devil will be in the details.”

    The chief counsel for House Speaker Mike Turzai, who proposed the plan, says having a few large wholesalers serving all the retailers in the state will reduce the number of “hands on the bottle,” and thereby keep prices down.

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